Joe McDonald wears a tattoo on his forearm of his grandfather’s armed services card. The name, rank and serial number remind him of his grandfather’s love and companionship when he was a young boy shuffling between the homes of his divorced parents.
Williamson gave Joe the opportunity to become the man his grandfather would have been proud of. With his talent and skills as a carpenter, Joe learned to serve others with the full and open heart that family and friends always knew he had.
Joe describes his grandfather who fortunately lived down the street, as “my go-to guy.”
“He’d call up my Mom and say, ‘Send Joey over. We’re going to listen to some rock and roll and eat popcorn and watch movies.’” Joe appreciated being in a house other than his mother’s or father’s – a respite from the stress he felt going back and forth.
His grandfather was someone Joe relied on until he was eight years old. After he died, Joe turned to others for support but at that point, he says, felt largely on his own.
Living on her own with three boys under the age of 10, Joe’s mother worked tirelessly to provide for her boys and keep them on track. She gave Joe a strong work ethic. After working in a hospital pharmacy for 25 years, she was entrusted with the responsibilities and duties of a physician’s assistant in an emergency room, working at the level of those with college degrees.
Joseph is grateful he found his passion so early. He fell in love with carpentry and construction at a young age. He worked on a house with his father at age 13, and then for his uncle’s roofing company at age 15. He attended a vocational technical high school and received a Carpentry Associates Certificate when he graduated. Those accomplishments impressed Williamson.
Joe had two options after high school: He could join the Carpenters’ Union or attend Williamson for three years. He knew that with either option, he would improve his knowledge and skills in carpentry. Now that he’s a senior, Joe realizes how coming to Williamson, and learning to live by the five core values, has impacted him as a person.
“It changed my attitudes,” he says. He realized the importance of integrity and service.
Being at Williamson, he’s been able to refine his carpentry skills and his people skills. For two years, Joe has served Williamson as a Student Ambassador, giving tours to people who come to campus and want to know about the college.
“I always liked talking to people,” Joe says. “But now I’m no longer scared of talking to people I don’t know.”
Williamson instructor and 2002 graduate John Capuzzi says Joe takes a lot of pride in his work. “He pays great attention to detail and likes seeing that he’s accomplished a job.” Joe is always showing his instructors the work he’s done on the weekends, Mr. Capuzzi says, “asking for advice on how he can make it better.”
Now in his final year at Williamson, Joe has developed confidence in his craft and a deeper sense of purpose. He is excited to be working on his brother’s house in Springfield. He goes every Saturday and is proud of the trim he’s done and renovation work on the kitchen and basement.
He also helped his mother move in with his grandmother and uncle so she could help them financially and through their health crises. During quarantine, Joe built an entire bedroom in the basement for his mother. His devotion extends to his time on campus. Joe talks to his mother almost every night, “just to check up on her and see how her day went.”
Joe knows that Williamson has given him a great start to his career and the opportunity to give to friends and family. Between the training he’s received in carpentry shop, the opportunities to work as a Student Ambassador, and the professional connections he’s made through the alumni network and Williamson’s career fairs, Joseph is proud of what he’s accomplished and excited about his future.
Mr. Capuzzi foresees that Joe will work in the trades industry as a vital part of a team. Joe leads by example, he says, and motivates those less knowledgeable and skilled.
“He tries to make the guys around him better, by not telling them what to do but showing them.”
“He won’t let them down.”
Just ask those around him – his mother, his brother, and those that have been lucky enough to work with Joe.
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